New Switchblade Robot Design is Leaner, More Agile

UCSD's talented tracked robot can stand up and balance on its tippy-toes to climb over obstacles

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Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

New Switchblade Robot Design is Leaner, More Agile

The first generation of UCSD's Switchblade robot used a battery pack on a big swingy arm-thing to alter its center of gravity enough to balance on its treads and climb stairs.

At the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems last week, we spotted an updated version of Switchblade, which trades in the external movable mass for a slick compact case. Instead of compromising its balancing skills, this new design (and some extra brains) have made Switchblade more agile than ever, being able to remain stable even when grad students push it with their sandal-clad feet:

This new form-factor makes Switchblade a bit more appealing as a capable replacement for a variety of tactical robots which shall remain nameless but rely on infinitely less cool movable paddle tracks to get themselves over obstacles way less obstacle-y than what Switchblade is able to surmount.

Switchblade has been refined to reduce its cost and complexity, and according to its creator Nick Morozovsky, it's "well suited for a variety of socially-relevant applications, including reconnaissance, mine exploration, and search and rescue." So someone just needs to put it into action already, and give those fancy balancing tricks some practical applications.

[ UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab ]

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